The antichrist by Friedrich Nietzsche

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The whole labour of the ancient world gone for naught: I have no word to describe the feelings that such an enormity arouses in me.--And, considering the fact that its labour was merely preparatory, that with adamantine self-consciousness it laid only the foundations for a work to go on for thousands of years, the whole meaning of antiquity disappears! . . To what end the Greeks? to what end the Romans?--All the prerequisites to a learned culture, all the methods of science, were already there; man had already perfected the great and incomparable art of reading profitably--that first necessity to the tradition of culture, the unity of the sciences; the natural sciences, in alliance with mathematics and mechanics, were on the right road,--the sense of fact, the last and more valuable of all the senses, had its schools, and its traditions were already centuries old! Is all this properly understood? Every essential to the beginning of the work was ready;--and the most essential, it cannot be said too often, are methods, and also the most difficult to develop, and the longest opposed by habit and laziness. What we have to day reconquered, with unspeakable self-discipline, for ourselves--for certain bad instincts, certain Christian instincts, still lurk in our bodies--that is to say, the keen eye for reality, the cautious hand, patience and seriousness in the smallest things, the whole integrity of knowledge--all these things were already there, and had been there for two thousand years! More, there was also a refined and excellent tact and taste! Not as mere brain-drilling! Not as "German" culture, with its loutish manners! But as body, as bearing, as instinct--in short, as reality. . . All gone for naught! Overnight it became merely a memory !--The Greeks! The Romans! Instinctive nobility, taste, methodical inquiry, genius for organization and administration, faith in and the will to secure the future of man, a great yes to everything entering into the imperium Romanum and palpable to all the senses, a grand style that was beyond mere art, but had become reality, truth, life . . --All overwhelmed in a night, but not by a convulsion of nature! Not trampled to death by Teutons and others of heavy hoof! But brought to shame by crafty, sneaking, invisible, anemic vampires! Not conquered,--only sucked dry! . . . Hidden vengefulness, petty envy, became master! Everything wretched, intrinsically ailing, and invaded by bad feelings, the whole ghetto-world of the soul, was at once on top!--One needs but read any of the Christian agitators, for example, St. Augustine, in order to realize, in order to smell, what filthy fellows came to the top. It would be an error, however, to assume that there was any lack of understanding in the leaders of the Christian movement:--ah, but they were clever, clever to the point of holiness, these fathers of the church! What they lacked was something quite different. Nature neglected--perhaps forgot--to give them even the most modest endowment of respectable, of upright, of cleanly instincts. . . Between ourselves, they are not even men. . . . If Islam despises Christianity, it has a thousandfold right to do so: Islam at least assumes that it is dealing with men. . . .


Christianity destroyed for us the whole harvest of ancient civilization, and later it also destroyed for us the whole harvest of Mohammedan civilization. The wonderful culture of the Moors in Spain, which was fundamentally nearer to us and appealed more to our senses and tastes than that of Rome and Greece, was trampled down (--I do not say by what sort of feet--) Why? Because it had to thank noble and manly instincts for its origin--because it said yes to life, even to the rare and refined luxuriousness of Moorish life! . . . The crusaders later made war on something before which it would have been more fitting for them to have grovelled in the dust--a civilization beside which even that of our nineteenth century seems very poor and very "senile."--What they wanted, of course, was booty: the orient was rich. . . . Let us put aside our prejudices! The crusades were a higher form of piracy, nothing more! The German nobility, which is fundamentally a Viking nobility, was in its element there: the church knew only too well how the German nobility was to be won . . . The German noble, always the "Swiss guard" of the church, always in the service of every bad instinct of the church--but well paid. . . Consider the fact that it is precisely the aid of German swords and German blood and valour that has enabled the church to carry through its war to the death upon everything noble on earth! At this point a host of painful questions suggest themselves. The German nobility stands outside the history of the higher civilization: the reason is obvious. . . Christianity, alcohol--the two great means of corruption. . . . Intrinsically there should be no more choice between Islam and Christianity than there is between an Arab and a Jew. The decision is already reached; nobody remains at liberty to choose here. Either a man is a Chandala or he is not. . . . "War to the knife with Rome! Peace and friendship with Islam!": this was the feeling, this was the act, of that great free spirit, that genius among German emperors, Frederick II. What! must a German first be a genius, a free spirit, before he can feel decently? I can't make out how a German could ever feel Christian. . . .


Here it becomes necessary to call up a memory that must be a hundred times more painful to Germans. The Germans have destroyed for Europe the last great harvest of civilization that Europe was ever to reap--the Renaissance. Is it understood at last, will it ever be understood, what the Renaissance was? The transvaluation of Christian values,--an attempt with all available means, all instincts and all the resources of genius to bring about a triumph of the opposite values, the more noble values. . . . This has been the one great war of the past; there has never been a more critical question than that of the Renaissance--it is my question too--; there has never been a form of attack more fundamental, more direct, or more violently delivered by a whole front upon the center of the enemy! To attack at the critical place, at the very seat of Christianity, and there enthrone the more noble values--that is to say, to insinuate them into the instincts, into the most fundamental needs and appetites of those sitting there . . . I see before me the possibility of a perfectly heavenly enchantment and spectacle :--it seems to me to scintillate with all the vibrations of a fine and delicate beauty, and within it there is an art so divine, so infernally divine, that one might search in vain for thousands of years for another such possibility; I see a spectacle so rich in significance and at the same time so wonderfully full of paradox that it should arouse all the gods on Olympus to immortal laughter--Caesar Borgia as pope! . . . Am I understood? . . . Well then, that would have been the sort of triumph that I alone am longing for today--: by it Christianity would have been swept away!--What happened? A German monk, Luther, came to Rome. This monk, with all the vengeful instincts of an unsuccessful priest in him, raised a rebellion against the Renaissance in Rome. . . . Instead of grasping, with profound thanksgiving, the miracle that had taken place: the conquest of Christianity at its capital--instead of this, his hatred was stimulated by the spectacle. A religious man thinks only of himself.--Luther saw only the depravity of the papacy at the very moment when the opposite was becoming apparent: the old corruption, the peccatum originale, Christianity itself, no longer occupied the papal chair! Instead there was life! Instead there was the triumph of life! Instead there was a great yea to all lofty, beautiful and daring things!  . . . And Luther restored the church: he attacked it. . . . The Renaissance--an event without meaning, a great futility !--Ah, these Germans, what they have not cost us! Futility--that has always been the work of the Germans.--The Reformation; Liebnitz; Kant and so-called German philosophy; the war of "liberation"; the empire-every time a futile substitute for something that once existed, for something irrecoverable . . . These Germans, I confess, are my enemies: I despise all their uncleanliness in concept and valuation, their cowardice before every honest yea and nay. For nearly a thousand years they have tangled and confused everything their fingers have touched; they have on their conscience all the half-way measures, all the three-eighths-way measures, that Europe is sick of,--they also have on their conscience the uncleanest variety of Christianity that exists, and the most incurable and indestructible--Protestantism. . . . If mankind never manages to get rid of Christianity the Germans will be to blame. . . .


--With this I come to a conclusion and pronounce my judgment. I condemn Christianity; I bring against the Christian church the most terrible of all the accusations that an accuser has ever had in his mouth. It is, to me, the greatest of all imaginable corruptions; it seeks to work the ultimate corruption, the worst possible corruption. The Christian church has left nothing untouched by its depravity; it has turned every value into worthlessness, and every truth into a lie, and every integrity into baseness of soul. Let any one dare to speak to me of its "humanitarian" blessings! Its deepest necessities range it against any effort to abolish distress; it lives by distress; it creates distress to make itself immortal. . . . For example, the worm of sin: it was the church that first enriched mankind with this misery!--The "equality of souls before God"--this fraud, this pretext for the rancunes of all the base-minded--this explosive concept, ending in revolution, the modern idea, and the notion of overthrowing the whole social order--this is Christian dynamite. . . . The "humanitarian" blessings of Christianity forsooth! To breed out of humanitas a self-contradiction, an art of self-pollution, a will to lie at any price, an aversion and contempt for all good and honest instincts! All this, to me, is the "humanitarianism" of Christianity!--Parasitism as the only practice of the church; with its anaemic and "holy" ideals, sucking all the blood, all the love, all the hope out of life; the beyond as the will to deny all reality; the cross as the distinguishing mark of the most subterranean conspiracy ever heard of,--against health, beauty, well-being, intellect, kindness of soul--against life itself. . . .

This eternal accusation against Christianity I shall write upon all walls, wherever walls are to be found--I have letters that even the blind will be able to see. . . . I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means are venomous enough, or secret, subterranean and small enough,--I call it the one immortal blemish upon the human race. . . .

And mankind reckons time from the dies nefastus when this fatality befell--from the first day of Christianity!--Why not rather from its last?--From today?--The transvaluation of all values! . . .



FOOTNOTES created and inserted by H.L. Mencken:

1. Cf. the tenth Pythian ode. See also the fourth hook of Herodotus. The Hyperboreans were a mythical people beyond the Rhipaean mountains, in the far North. They enjoyed unbroken happiness and perpetual youth. [RETURN TO TEXT]

2. The lowest of the Hindu castes. [RETURN TO TEXT]

3. That is, in Pandora's box. [RETURN TO TEXT]

4. John iv, 22. [RETURN TO TEXT]

5. David Friedrich Strauss (1808-74), author of "Das Leben Jesu" (1835-6), a very famous work in its day. Nietzsche here refers to it. [RETURN TO TEXT]

6. The word Semiotik is in the text, but it is probable that Semantik is what Nietzsche had in mind. [RETURN TO TEXT]

7. One of the six great systems of Hindu philosophy. [RETURN TO TEXT]

8. The reputed founder of Taoism. [RETURN TO TEXT]

9. Nietzsche's name for one accepting his own philosophy. [RETURN TO TEXT]

10. That is, the strict letter of the law--the chief target of Jesus's early preaching. [RETURN TO TEXT]

11. A reference to the "pure ignorance" (reine Thorheit) of Parsifal. [RETURN TO TEXT]

12. Matthew v, 34. [RETURN TO TEXT]

13. Amphytrion was the son of Alcaeus, King of Tiryns. His wife was Alcmene. During his absence she was visited by Zeus, and bore Heracles. [RETURN TO TEXT]

14. So in the text. One of Nietzsche's numerous coinages, obviously suggested by Evangelium, the German for gospel.[RETURN TO TEXT]

15. To which, without mentioning it, Nietzsche adds verse 48. [RETURN TO TEXT]

16. A paraphrase of Demetrius' "Well roar'd, Lion!" in act v, scene 1 of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The lion, of course, is the familiar Christian symbol for Mark. [RETURN TO TEXT]

17. Nietzsche also quotes part of verse 2. [RETURN TO TEXT]

18. The quotation also includes verse 47. [RETURN TO TEXT]

19. And 17. [RETURN TO TEXT]

20. Verses 20, 21, 26, 27, 28, 29. [RETURN TO TEXT]

21. A paraphrase of Schiller's "Against stupidity even gods struggle in vain." [RETURN TO TEXT]

22. The word training is in English in the text. [RETURN TO TEXT]

23. I Corinthians i, 27, 28. [RETURN TO TEXT]

24. That is, to say, scepticism. Among the Greeks scepticism was also occasionally called ephecticism. [RETURN TO TEXT]

25. A reference to the University of Tubingen and its famous school of Biblical criticism. The leader of this school was F. C. Baur, and one of the men greatly influenced by it was Nietzsche's pet abomination, David F. Strauss, himself a Suabian. Vide § 10 and § 28. [RETURN TO TEXT]

26. The quotations are from "Also sprach Zarathustra" ii, 24: "Of Priests." [RETURN TO TEXT]

27. The aphorism, which is headed "The Enemies of Truth," makes the direct statement: "Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies." [RETURN TO TEXT]

28. A reference, of course, to Kant's "Kritik der praktischen Vernunft" (Critique of Practical Reason). [RETURN TO TEXT]

29. I Corinthians vii, 2, 9. [RETURN TO TEXT]

30. Few men are noble. [RETURN TO TEXT]
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